A Travellerspoint blog

Czech Republic

Kutna Hora

The plan for this morning was to be up in time to have breakfast and checkout at 7 (when breakfast at the hotel begins) and then get to the train station in time to catch the first train that would get us to Kutna Hora around opening time.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We were at breakfast on-time, and it was a decent breakfast. It took us a while to get moving though, and we mad it to the train station, bought our tickets, and then saw we were about a minute too late for the train.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Since the next train was an hour later, we wandered the station for a little and used the free wifi. Finally, it was train time. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The train car was roomy and comfortable. It reminds me of the train car they sit in on the ride to Hogwarts, but with clear doors so that you can see the scenery from both sides of the train.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Near Prague, the scenery was mostly forested, which in winter means a bunch of leafless trees. As we got further out, the scenery changed to fields and villages more than trees.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We changed trains at Kolin, and continued to Kutna Hora main station. The lady at the ticket desk in Prague had told us to go to Kutna Hora Mesto (and sold us tickets to there), so we changed to this tiny little train that looked more like a bus. It only has 3 stops- the main station, the center station, and the downtown station (mesto). <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When we got off, there weren't really signs telling us where to go, and the map the lady at the train station gave us didn't have the Bone Church clearly identified. When I asked about it, she said, what sounded to me like "Barbarosa." I had a map saved to my phone, but it didn't seem to jive with anything on the map she gave me, so we assumed google was wrong and found some locals. Of course, they didn't speak English, so we cleverly showed them a picture we had on an ad for Kutna Hora tours from Prague. "Ah, Barbarosa," they all said, and pointed us on our way.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We passed through a very cute, quaint town. It was worth the uphill walk just to see the town. Every time we stopped and showed a local the picture, they were very helpful, constantly pointing us to Barbarosa, until we got close enough that there were signs to St. Barbara's.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The church itself has a great view, a lovely walkway, and is very beautiful. The architecture is stunning. Finally, at the church, I went inside and asked, is this the bone church?<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">No.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">It wasn't.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The bone church is so far across town that it is not on the map the train lady gave me. It is located between the first 2 train stations in town, and the map I saved to my phone showed how to get there from the middle train station, not the one we were told to go to. So basically, we walked uphill 20 minutes to the wrong site. However, it was beautiful and totally worth seeing. I was glad that we accidentally stumbled onto a UNESCO world heritage sight that we didn't plan on seeing. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">the tourist office lady gave me a new map showing all of the tourist sites in town, as well as where the bus stops to get us there are. We didn't know how much time it would take the bus (the map said 30 mins), and we thought we'd be short on time, so we didn't really stay at St. Barbara's enough to really look around too much.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">On the way to the bus stop, we passed another of the town's famous historical sites. Just as we started waiting for the bus, it started to snow. Really, it was barely flurrying, but since it's been years since I've seen snow fall, I'll take what I can get. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We got on the bus, and it was way less than 30 minutes to the bone church, maybe because there was only one other person who got on or off the bus the entire time we were on it. I enjoyed seeing the non-touristy parts of town and how "real" Czech people lived in the countryside. Some were of the areas were clearly built in the Soviet era, but had been painted in bright colors to make them fun and unusual- the standard Czech "anti-soviet" rebellion. The driver was really nice and told us just where to get off and pointed us in the right direction, even though he didn't speak any English.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The Ossuary itself was very cool. They had a paper they handed out in various languages that explains the place. The summary: a lot of people were buried here in old (1200s era) time and some conquerors came and tore it up. A half-blind monk took the bones of 40,000 people and used them to decorate the church, all while following the "religious people rules of bone decoration." He got his sight back when he was done.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The Ossuary is very cool to see, the highlight being a chandelier of bones. It is only one room, so it doesn't take long. (Technically, there is a chapel upstairs and a pretty cemetery outside, but those aren't the good parts.) To come to Kutna Hora just for the Ossuary is probably not worth it. I'm really glad we also saw the town, church, and cathedral. To make a day trip to see them all IS worth it. Or, in our case, a half-day trip.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After the church, we walked to the main train station and enjoyed the snow some more. We got a direct train back to Prague and rearranged our plans.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">My travel partner wanted to go shopping again. I did more shopping yesterday than I can really handle, I feel that I fulfilled my promise to go shopping, I feel that spending my time in a mall is a big waste, and I had seen an ad for a 1 hour underground tour that looked interesting, so we decided to split up for a few hours.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Unfortunately, today was apparently "show up a minute too late day." I was technically on time for the tour, but since they had already left, that didn't really help me any.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Instead, I asked the tourist info lady what museum she would recommend if I only had an hour. She circled a spot on Bethlehem street and told me that they have a great exhibit on native cultures.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I got to Bethlehem street easily enough, and went into the first museum that I saw. It turned out to be a free modern art museum. It was interesting, but there wasn't a whole lot to see there. It also wasn't the museum I was looking for.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">So, when I exited, I looked around for the goal museum. I found an architecture museum right across the street, so I went in there, thinking that maybe it had something. It was a one-room display on dilapidated buildings that had been restored/modernized. It was just a bunch of posters with pictures that somebody hung up. I think it would make an interesting book if somebody printed the pages a bit smaller, but there really wasn't a need to print them large and call it a museum. I did find it interesting, though, just not enough to want to stand around reading everything.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Again, when I exited I looked around for the goal museum. Finally, I realized the fancy gate-looking thing was the entrance to the entrance of the museum.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">This really was the museum she suggested, N&aacute;prstek Museum. It is part of the Czech national museum system, so there are several buildings. However, I only went to the one. The displays had nothing to do with anything Czech, but were interesting nonetheless. The 2 big topics they covered were Azerbaijan and Pacific Island native culture. The first was in English, the second wasn't, but had a lot more items and a lot less to read anyway. I enjoyed it more than the mall.

I did eventually go back to the mall to meet up with my friend. She showed me another cheese stand and I tried a bunch of the cheeses, and again picked a few to bring back. There were some cheeses I'd had before, but also quite a few new ones, including a really sweet, creamy gorgonzola dulce.

At this point, most of the tourist things were shutting down and there wasn't too much to do other than dinner and then go to the airport. W were pretty tired, but wandered around old town trying to find just the right place before stopping at an Italian restaurant, Pizzeria de Sherry. I had homemade tagliatelli that was great and FINALLY tried a Pilsner Urquel, the Czech beer. It tasted like a light beer. It was still not to my taste and I didn't drink a lot, but it was light enough that I could at least get some down.

After dinner, we headed back to the airport, exhausted, but happy that we had been able to go on a short getaway.

Czech countryside

Czech countryside


Kutna Hora town

Kutna Hora town


Kutna Hora town

Kutna Hora town


Statue on way to St. Barbara's

Statue on way to St. Barbara's


St. Barbara's

St. Barbara's


Monastery

Monastery


Soviet style architecture

Soviet style architecture


Bone Church

Bone Church


Bone Church

Bone Church

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague, part 2

So, even though I was just here, a friend wanted to go somewhere and Up had some great prices for good weekend flights to Prague. So, we're here for the weekend.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">For those who haven't flown Up, it's Elal's discount airline, and like all discount airlines, they charge for everything. Fortunately, we checked in online, only had backpacks for luggage, and ate before the flight, so the only real way we felt "discount" was by the lack of legroom.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Upon arrival in Prague, we got a 24-hr public transit pass and headed downtown. We walked around Wencelas square and stopped at one of the 7 Starbucks on the square, since my friend had never had Starbucks before. Seriously- it seemed like there was a Starbucks on every corner. I got "Prague cake," which is a very good chocolate cake. We also stopped at a great cheese store and I bought some very good Gran Moravia cheese. It was halfway between a good cheddar and a parmesan.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Next, we walked right past our hotel and into old town, where we saw the astronomical clock and heard some band playing in the square. In general, we did a lot of stuff today that I already saw, so I won't spend a lot of time on those details. We walked up to the river, and had a very calm stroll over to one of the bridges, and then walked across it.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">From there, we went up the funicular to the top of the city. We enjoyed the nice view, and even played in the snow a bit. That was a nice, but unexpected treat. We walked through the park down to the middle funicular "station" and then finished taking the funicular back down.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Next stop was the castle. This time, the cathedral was open, and so I was able to go in. It's a pretty standard cathedral, but the stained glass was gorgeous.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The castle grounds were quite a bit colder than the rest of the city, so we descended the main ramp back to where it was a bit warmer.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We decided that it was hotel time. We are staying at the Hotel Melantrich, which is about a block from the Mustek metro station right downtown in the middle of things. It's a lot nicer than what I usually stay in, but was also reasonably priced, despite the great location and great quality.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After getting settled, we went to the mall. Yes, you read that right and no, I don't mean a grassy area like the National Mall in DC. I mean a real shopping mall. My travel partner had said that she'll go with me (tomorrow) to Kutna Hora if I go shopping with her. I warned her that I am not the most useful shopping buddy, but promised to try.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">So, she picked out the malls she wanted to go to and today, we went to one at the Andel metro stop. First, we went to the food court, because we were starving. There are a lot of international chains there, but I also found a local chain that was fast-food vegetarian. They had a by-weight buffet, and I enjoyed all the food I got there. Next, we did shopping. I think she was a bit frustrated because she had been told that all the brand-names were less expensive here than home. Instead, they all had the same items at the same prices. In the end, our only purchases were a few food items from the grocery store. I'll admit that this is not how I want to spend my vacation, but it is also important to me that she gets to do things she wants, as well.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After our less-than-successful shopping trip, we came back to the hotel to get ready for going out. The plan was: dinner, pub, club. We made it to dinner ok. We had some buffet-style Indian food that was spices-spicy, but not hot-spicy. Also, it wasn't particularly temperature-hot.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We attempted to find a pub that is famous for being very old, but ended up walking past it. At this point, my travel buddy decided that it was maybe a bit too cold to be going out in tights and a sleeveless dress. Also, it was pretty early to be going to pubs, so we ended up back at the hotel again, this time to change and nap.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">There was actually a place next door, but just walking in coated us in a thick layer of smoke. I turned right around because I couldn't breathe. So, when we finally headed out, we asked the guy at the front desk where to go that was good and not too smokey. He seemed to be under the impression that most places were smoke-free, and sent us to a place by Charles bridge.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We first walked the bridge at night and took in the gorgeous views of the city lit up at night. Then, we went over to the club, Karlovy Lazne, which was billed as "the largest music club in Central Europe" or something like that. The cover wasn't too bad- about $7, but that only included entrance to the 5 floors. There was also an ice bar on the ground floor, so naturally, we had to try it.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The entrance was "free" but you had to buy a drink for about $8 in order to get in, and they had a timer on the wall telling you how much time you had left in there. My recommendation is to do the ice bar first or last because the thick hooded ponchos they give you aren't quite enough and the coat check ladies won't let you add or take off things from the coat check without paying again.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">In any case, it's worth doing once, if you're there, but not something I really need to do again or would go out of my way to do. It's basically a room where they line the walls with a coating of ice. Then, they get some ice sculptors to make a bar, a few tables, and some decorations out of ice, but there are also things frozen within the ice. The glasses are made of ice. It's pretty much what it sounds like- an ice bar.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We also went to the other floors. A few of them had good music, but were full of smoke. A few of them had less-good music, but they were pretty empty and had good air, so we danced there for a while. We headed out just as the place was filling up, but we were both tired, and the areas with air that wasn't choking me were shrinking rapidly.

Town Hall

Town Hall


Winter view from funicular

Winter view from funicular


Cathedral St. Vitus

Cathedral St. Vitus


Inside St. Vitus Cathedral

Inside St. Vitus Cathedral


IceBar

IceBar

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Jewish Easter Sunday

In the morning, I had the hotel breakfast, which I was pleased with, and then took the tram to town. On the tram, I noticed lots of people walking around with Easter baskets. They didn't look to be full of candies, like kids' baskets in the states, but full of bread. One smelled like it had both bread and sausages. When we got to the more tourist areas though, less people had them.I walked an area a little bit south of where I had walked before, and then headed back to the Jewish area ticket office to get a ticket for the full guided tour. The entire area of town was completely mobbed. Maybe people were thinking that because it's Easter Sunday, everything but the Jewish area would be closed. Maybe people who were in town for a while knew that the Jewish sites would be closed for the next 2 days due to Passover. Maybe it was just the weekend rush. I don't know. It was absolutely crazy packed in that entire area of town. I was glad I paid for the guided tour for two reasons. One, she added a lot of context and explanation to what we were seeing. Two, she was able to get us to the front of the lines better and so we were able to beat some of the crowds at some of the places. The first stop on the tour is the Old/New Synagogue. This synagogue is a very old Orthodox synagogue where the women and men have a full stone wall between their sections. The seats for the members line each wall, but one seat is chained off. It was the seat for somebody famous and is now still only for him, although he has been long gone. The next stop on the tour was the Spanish synagogue. It is called that due to the architectural style, not due to the congregation. On the inside, this synagogue looks like it could be a mosque as it is very Moorish. It is incredibly beautiful and detailed. On the top floor, there are several display cases containing mini museum exhibits.After that, we went to the Pinkas Synagogue that is now a memorial to those lost in the Holocaust. The walls are covered with the names of those lost, and it is a very somber site. Next, we saw the graveyard. The cemetery contains 12,000 graves and over 100,000 people who were buried between 1400 and 1700. It does not look nearly big enough for either of those numbers, but the guide explained that the people were buried several deep in many places. She also pointed out the stone of the famous Prague Rabbis who were buried there, the oldest stones, and a few interesting ones.The path through the graveyard winds around and finally leads you to the entrance of the burial society building and then the Maisel Synagogue. The burial society building contains some displays about traditional Jewish death practices. There is a series of paintings that shows what happens to a corpse and several artifacts on display. The Maisel synagogue contains some displays on Jewish holidays and family rituals. It's a great place to get a taste of Jewish cultural practices.Overall, I found the tour quite interesting. It enjoyed seeing the wide variety of synagogue architecture all in one place. It was like a mini-tour of synagogues of the world. I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to eat lunch before going to the Gastronomy museum, so I grabbed a bite at the James Dean Diner. This restaurant was very 1950s-USA-themed with Marilyn Monroe plastered all over the walls, jukebox music playing, and cigarettes on the menu. The food was a bit overpriced, but very typically American food. The Gastronomy Museum is a little hole-in-the-wall museum, but it is very well done. The first section contains a history of food from how the first humans started to use fire to modern chefs. It was full of dioramas, displays, and even had a sample "modern kitchen." They do serve samples in the kitchen, and I can say that the homemade mead is very good. The next museum I went to was also a hole-in-the-wall museum- the Alchemy Museum. It is located more towards the castle, very close to the American Embassy. There are two parts to this museum. The downstairs part mostly has a lot of words (in English) on the walls, and not a whole lot to actually see. The other part is the tower that a famous alchemist, Kelly, used. There are 60 steps to the top, and then you feel like you've entered a Halloween funhouse. They have set it up how he might have had it set up, with jars of odd body parts, a skeleton, and other interesting items he might have had. It was cute, but probably not quite worth whatever I paid for it. Having seen most of what I wanted to see in the main part of the city, I took the tram to Vysehrad, which was off the edge of my map. However, I was still able to find the fort and fort grounds there. The fort grounds were peaceful and provided a good walk. I saw a church, statues, and some park areas. Also, since I had taken the tram to the area atop the hill, I had a nice walk downhill back to the river. I did finally get my river cruise. I went back to where I didn't get one from the other day. I still was just one person, but just as I was about to give up, a group of 3 tourists came up looking for a boat ride. I'm going to admit that while I got lucky and was happy to go on the boat ride, finally, it was not all I expected it to be. It was a nice, calm ride and a good view of the city, but the information was a droning recording that contained about 8 languages we didn't need and started to put me to sleep at some point. I didn't really learn a whole lot about Prague and didn't see a whole lot of new things since the water is pretty accessible by tram and bridge and I had already walked the area a lot. The one thing that did excite me is that they had "egg alcohol" on the menu. Other than eggnog, I had never really heard of egg alcohol. So, I of course had to try it. It wasn't particularly great, but also wasn't bad. Drinkers would probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

My plan was to then go up to the Petrin tower, which is called "Prague's Eiffel," eat something there, and then see the observatory that I didn't get to see the other day. I did the first part ok. The daily pass tram ticket also covers the ride on the funicular to the top of the mountain where the tower is. From the funicular, you do need a separate ticket to get into the Petrin Tower, and it costs an additional amount to use the elevator.So, I instead used the stairs. All 299 of them. Fortunately, they have 2 separate stair cases- one for up and one for down, so it is a more comfortable climb. The view from the top is a good view, as would be expected. It's a bit windy, but very nice. Then, I got to climb down all the stairs. Despite being incredibly well marked, there were people climbing up the down stairs, for some reason. It made the descent a bit more of a challenge, but I managed. The next part of the plan was to eat something at the top. Unfortunately, any restaurants they had were closed. The funicular was only running every 20-30 minutes, so I didn't want to get off and see if the restaurant at the middle funicular stop was open, only to find it wasn't and have to wait again. So, I went to the bottom and decided to eat at the first place I could find something at. That turned out to be a tiny restaurant, but it had great tomato soup.

Finally, I went back up to the observatory. Again, bad luck. The credit card machine was broken and she wasn't willing to take Euros, Dollars, Pounds, or anything but Czech koruna. I was about 2 koruna short, which is like being a penny short or something silly. Another couple "rescued" me. I offered them some Euro cents in exchange, but they were nice enough to just pay my penny. The observatory has several interesting displays on astronomy, light, and other scientific topics. Of course, the highlight is the ability to look through 2 of their telescopes. I got to look through both before it started to rain and they had to close the ceiling doors. The docents were very knowledgeable about the telescopes. One was able to explain the difference between a telescope designed to look at the moon and one designed to look at the stars. (One is longer to "zoom in" more and see features, the other is wider to gather more light so the stars are brighter.) The other didn't speak English, but was able to answer my Spanish questions with Italian.While I wish it hadn't started to rain, at least I got to see a little through the telescopes.

The Pyramida was a very short walk from the observatory, but the park wasn't really well enough lit for me to want to walk it in the dark and in the rain, so I took the funicular down the mountain and then took the tram over to the hotel. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay in Prague and fell like it's a place worth going back to for a few more days, although I'd definitely do some of the day trips and not stay in the city the whole time, since I already saw most of what I wanted to see. The only general negative things I can say were about the smoking and the bathrooms. Everybody seems to be smoking thesehorrible cigarettes with smoke that lingers longer like cigar smoke and just has an overwhelmingly bad smell. The other is that all the places have signs on the bathrooms that say they will charge for the bathrooms. Although I can only half-complain about that as nobody every charged me if I was a customer.

Old New Synagogue

Old New Synagogue


Spanish Synagogue

Spanish Synagogue


Kelly's Tower

Kelly's Tower


Fort

Fort


View from fort

View from fort


Petrin Tower

Petrin Tower


View from Petrin

View from Petrin


View from Petrin

View from Petrin


Jewish Cemetery

Jewish Cemetery

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague, part II

I headed back to Prague. When I had been there the weekend before, I had learned that the guy at the airport bus ticket counter doesn't break big bills. Of course, anybody who came from abroad and just got money from an ATM only has big bills. He makes you pay with your credit card. This time, I was smarter about it because I had change (intentionally) left over from last weekend. I skipped him altogether and just bought a ticket from one of the automatic machines out in the bus area. This time, I was staying in a 4-star hotel and not the hostel. One, I had so much luggage it wouldn't have fit into the lockers at the hostel. Two, I didn't want to schlep it all up the stairs just for two nights. Three, I knew that I'd want some peace and quiet and to be by myself to recover from my week in DC. Four, I wanted to stay across the river from the main part of town so I was closer to the observatory and things I ahdn't seen instead of close to the things I'd seen. And lastly, I got a great deal on it so it was actually pretty cheap. From the airport, I had to take the bus to a stop that was just around the corner from a tram station. It's good the tram was going by as I got off, or else I would not have seen the tram station and might have gotten lost. The tram lets off basically right in front of the Pyramid hotel, which is in a nice, quiet neighborhood. One thing to note is that there is no automatic ticket machine at that stop, so if you want a ticket for the next day, you should buy it wherever you bought your ticket for the first day, and just don't activate it until the next morning.

The hotel lobby is exactly what I would expect from a 4-star hotel. It was well-decorated, shiny and new. The service was excellent. The hallways and rooms probably weren't redecorated as recently, but they were immaculately clean with no trace of mold, even in the bathroom. My room was also very large for a European hotel room. It was almost the size of a US hotel room. By the time I was settled and ready to go out, I decided that I would postpone going to the observatory because I was hungry and it was late. I wanted as much time as possible there and not to feel rushed. Instead, I took the tram to town and found a Chinese restaurant. It had a buffet, but I ordered off the menu. Maybe the Czech palate doesn't do spicy at all, becasue when I asked for "regular spicy" I got what I would consider mild. Otherwise, the food was what I would expect at any Chinese restaurant in the states. Afterwards, I walked around town and again marvelled at the souvenir shops that were open until 2am. Do people at bachelorete parties really get drunk and say, "Hey, we should go buy a new plate set! That's a great idea!" and then actually do it?

Charles Bridge at night

Charles Bridge at night

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

The Defenestration of Prague

I woke up this morning only slightly later than my normal time, so even after getting ready and dressed, almost nothing was open when I left to go explore.

First, I walked around the Jewish town and saw the outsides of the various synagogues. They looked interesting, but without knowing the story behind them, it was just some cool architecture. I'd like to come back when they're open and see the insides.

Then, I crossed the river and headed to the castle. I asked the guards at the front gate if they were the kind who weren't allowed to talk, and didn't get a response. I said, "I'll take that as a no." What I would have liked to ask them is where to go to see the spot of the famous defenestration of Prague. Instead, I just walked in and wandered around, hoping that I'd find a sign or somebody who knew. Inside the walls, it's basically a small town. There are a few shops and restaurants as well as a cathedral, some museums, and other buildings. That early in the morning, it was very empty and I had the place mostly to myself and the occasional other tourist. Despite there being nobody there, they still do the whole hourly changing of the guards ceremony thing. I basically got my own, personal guard changing ceremony. It was pretty cool. Even with nothign open, it still took me hours to walk around the grounds and see what there was to see. By the end though, there were a few more people around, including one who could point me in the direction of the defenestration window. For those who need directions, basically you stand in front of the cathedral and look left. On my way out, one of the shops was finally opening up, so I got a cup of mulled hot wine. Probably, this wasn't too brilliant because I hadn't really had breakfast yet and while the alcohol mostly cooks out, this wine hadn't been there long enough for it to do so. Also, I had never had it before (which is why I bought it), and didn't really like it. Probably if I added a bunch of sugar packets it would have been good, but as I got it, it wasn't that great.

I went back down the hill to the town, and thankfully, the markets were opening up so I could get some real food. Except all the junk food looked so good and I had never had some of it before, so my breakfast ended up being more delicious, bad-for-you food than nutrition. One of the items I got was called "cheese balls," but basically it tasted like donut holes. Another was a heated nutella wafer that was really good.

My breakfast of champions kept me relatively satisfied until I got to the airport and got checked in. There wasn't much to eat past security at the airport- something like 4 different places each with the same 4 menu items, but I managed.

Synagogue

Synagogue


Inside castle grounds

Inside castle grounds


Inside castle grounds

Inside castle grounds


Inside castle grounds

Inside castle grounds


Changing of the guard

Changing of the guard


Inside castle grounds

Inside castle grounds


Defenestration point

Defenestration point

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

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